Houffalize is a quaint little village nestled snuggly in a valley in the rolling hills of Belgium, and the whole town is alive with the World Cup. I’ve been told that the entire town seems to just close down for this weekend, and I can see that it pretty much has to, because the course moves right up the heart of the town every lap. Can you imagine completely closing down all of say Banff or Bowness for a race, and having the many coffee shops that line the course packed with people watching, and having the kids from the local elementary school out on the field cheering…and it’s just the pre-ride, two days before the actual race. Never have I seen such openness and love for the sport of cycling, it’s absolutely awesome and refreshing.
Sandra and I are located about 12 very winding km away from Houffalize in the small village of Nadrin. Thursday we headed out for an easy “recovery/endurance” ride and somehow managed to get very lost in the sparse Belgium forest. Now when you think of a forest, don’t think of the typical Canadian forest, think of a completely manicured forest void of any underbrush. It seems that Europeans like the “clean” forest, not at all natural looking, kind of errie and very weird.
Friday we headed into town to ride the course. We actually had to park just outside of town and ride in because the road into town has been transformed into the maze of the expo. You can drive through, but it’s much, much faster to walk or ride. The course is very challenging, right off the bat on the first lap you’re sent straight up the main road through Houffalize on a 14% to 16% km long road…good way to split up the group fast. The downhills are for the most part steep and somewhat challenging, with some really good ruts, sharp sharp corners and some off camber roots. The climbs are steep as well, but nothing technical at all, very straight forward. There actually isn’t much in terms of flat terrain to rest, so it’s going to be an “on the ball all the time” type of race. I really hope that it doesn’t rain too much, could make some of the downhills very treacherous..good to be a Canadian (though this being my first real singetrack of the season, I’m a little rusty right now).
Now I’m off to try and figure out what to do with my Euro travelers cheques that no one will accept….I guess people don’t use travelers cheques anymore…but that’s all the money I have.